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Uncertain Mar. 17th, 2014 @ 02:54 am
    “The Hauksbók version of The Book of Settlements gives the following sailing directions: ‘Setting off from Hernar in Norway [near Stad] for Hvarf [? Cape Farewell] in Greenland, one sails due west.  The course lies to the north of the Shetlands, so that they may be clearly seen from the sea, and then to the south of the Faroes, so that the sea on the horizon stands halfway up the face of the cliffs, then close enough to the south of Iceland so that the sailors can recognize birds and whales from there.’  Once in Greenland, North America was well within the reach of a competent ship’s crew. ”

    I’ve been reading a book called “Viking Age Iceland” by Jesse Byock, and that passage is from it, though obviously the bulk of it is taken from earlier sources.  It just reminded me of how different life must have been in the past; how much less sure of things people were, but how much more willing to take risks based on what little information they had.  Imagine being a ship’s captain back in the year 988 or thereabouts.  You’ve heard of Greenland, and tales of what a great new life you can make for yourself there.  You ask around for someone who’s been there and who knows the way, and that is what you get in the way of directions. That’s it; nothing more.  Do you make the journey?
    Back then, some did.  We are far less willing these days to live with that amount of uncertainty.  Or at least I am.  I was walking around outside with my dog and I was wondering if I would have made it in the world if I was born into a different era, but of course had I been, I would have been raised in a different way, with different sensibilities.   Would I have therefore been braver, or is that something inborn in each of us?
    Later on the page, or maybe it’s the next page (I’m reading the digital version) Mr. Byock goes on to say: “The twelfth-century Book of the Icelanders reports that of twenty-five ships that left Iceland in the year 988 to colonize Greenland only fourteen reached their destination.”
    North America was well within reach.  Nearly half disappeared on the way to Greenland.  These thoughts seem incongruous to me, and my modern sensibilities.  But maybe they’re not.  Maybe I’ve always just had the world pegged wrong.
    Travel is still dangerous these days, though obviously not to the same degree.  Look at the missing Malaysian Aeroplane from the last two weeks.  Despite radio and satellite transmissions to and from the plane, it has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.  And this is with modern search techniques and GPS beacons.  We also knew it was missing and something had happened within a few hours.  In the Viking Age, something could happen to a ship on a long voyage and weeks, or months, later people back home wouldn’t know that anything was amiss.
    I don’t think these thoughts lead anywhere other than the usual, take more risks, life is always uncertain, but a lot of the risk has been mitigated by the modern era.

    I’ve been streaming.  No, I haven’t seen a doctor, that’s not what I mean.  I mean I’ve been streaming gameplay live to twitch.tv.  The address?  http://www.twitch.tv/tasxsit of course.  I’ve mostly been playing Battlefield 4 but I’ve tried other things as well.
    When I was young my friends and I would play single player games on early PCs and consoles, and we would all be there, taking turns on the controller, or watching others play, giving our advice and ideas and interacting together with each other and the game.  I enjoyed that.  So now I’m reliving those days in the modern era with strangers from around the world.  Actually I don’t get any viewers yet really.  Maybe I never will.  But at least now it’s a possibility.  I even have a teamspeak3 set up so that people can drop into my channels and chat.  But sadly just after I did that, twitch changed the way they do things and now there’s about a 30 second delay between what happens where I am and viewers seeing it on the screen.  This causes a less than ideal desynchronised communication , but it’s better than nothing, and I’m sure everyone on twitch will either adapt, or complain loud enough that they will prioritise getting rid of the delay.  So feel free to come join me.

    For the twitch channel I decided to make a background for when I’m switching servers on Battlefield, since the game is launched from your browser and the game itself shuts down when you leave a server.  So I painted one digitally in ArtRage 4.  That was fun, but actually I’d started to relearn to digitally paint before that.  My Wacom tablet broke a few weeks ago and I decided to buy a new one rather than to do without.  Naturally, I am no longer a poor student, so I decided to go with an Intuos Pro Large.  It’s incredible!  I love it.  There’s a giant difference between making strokes on the tiny Intuos 2 I had before and this new behemoth.  You can use your shoulder properly, instead of your fingers, and make large, sweeping lines.  It’s also wireless, and is touch capable, (as in with your fingers and not just with the stylus) which means I can use it as a remote control for my whole computer from my bed.
    Painting is fun, even if you’re lousy at it, like I currently am.  But I’ve been watching the videos at http://ctrlpaint.com and I intend to improve.  And even if I don’t really improve, I intend to keep on enjoying myself.
    I’ve been debating whether or not to buy Photoshop or Painter.  Photoshop is far too expensive as it stands though.  It is affordable if you go by their new rental model.  At least it is until the end of March when the price will go up from £8.78 a month to £17 something a month.  So I have to decide if I’m going to get it or not by then.  That’s still a hundred or so for the year though, and it is a year long commitment, and there’s nothing to say it won’t go up to £17 the next year when I’m used to it, “forcing” me to pay the higher price.  You can still buy it standalone but that’s in the £600+ region, since I am no longer eligible for the student version.  But there’s no saying how that version will be supported since updates are geared towards the new subscription version.
    Painter is a lot cheaper, in the £240 region, though I’ve seen it on deals for a lot cheaper (before I got the new tablet) so I might get it when I find it for £180 or that kind of region.  But even then I’ll probably wait until I’ve got a lot better with ArtRage 4 and will actually know what I’m doing and be able to make use of painter’s added functionality.
    I also got a Japanese program called Clip Studio Paint, which is repackaged and better known in the west as MangaStudio.  I’ve seen a few forums online where people say they’ve switched to that from Photoshop and haven’t missed anything or regretted it.  I guess I just need to work out how to recreate Photoshop’s soft round brush in that and then maybe I won’t have to buy anything else at all.  Why must I do that?  That’s what the guy uses in the videos on http://ctrlpaint.com, and I have to follow his instructions exactly, don’t I?  Where would I be without concrete direction?  How could I live with the uncertainty of using my own tools?  I’m a 20th century type of guy after all, even if it is the 21st.

    See you later.
 
Feeling: Awake in the middle of the night
Hearing: Lykke Li

The night again. Apr. 10th, 2012 @ 01:35 am

I’m sitting here… Every time I try to write that seems to come out of me first.  Where else would I be?  This is where my keyboard is.  This is where the screen is.  Where else would I be?  But I’m sitting here, thinking.  Always thinking.  It feels like I’m hoping for that long lost feeling to come upon me that would strike in the dark of night, and sweep my hands unfailingly to the right keys again and again.  Words would tumble and white would fall stroke by stroke to the little black symbols that can show my thoughts to the world.

I’ve been watching a lot of stuff about Carl Sagan recently.  If you look up “The Sagan Series” on Youtube you’ll see what I’m talking about.  But don’t stop there because there will be a lot of suggested videos at the side that will give you more.  They’re all worth it.  I used to wonder what I’d do if I ever won the lottery, and now I have to add something else to the yacht, and making my life comfortable.  I’d try my best to buy the rights to the work of Carl Sagan and I’d make it available to everyone.  If we could find the perfect age to do it, I’d hope to put the pale blue dot stuff in front of children and make them see how small, and insignificant we are.  You want to start a war and kill how many people to become “the momentary master of a fraction of a dot?”

Life used to be like this every night, and that’s how I let University slip by me.  But now it’s some time past one in the morning, and I’m up at six for work, and I’ll actually get there.  Wow, to have come so far.  Getting up in the morning.  What an achievement.

I keep finding people these days who seem to have an intuitive grasp of the kind of stuff I’ve been spending my life trying to learn.  At least I’ve learned enough now not to be jealous, and not to cry about it, but to accept where I am, and look forward to the future.  I don’t mind being a tortoise any more, because I think I’m on the right path.  It doesn’t matter to me if you have a big house, or a beautiful family, or everything you’ve ever wanted, except that I can congratulate you on achieving your dreams.  It’s not a zero sum game.  I don’t wish you were down here with me.  I wish I was up there with you, and if I can’t make it, that’s not your fault, or problem.  It starts and ends with me.

I’ve listened to Jim Rohn.  I don’t wish it was easier; I wish I was better.  Except, it’s in my hands.  I don’t have to wish.  There are steps I can take to get there, and even if they’re slow, plodding steps, I’ll keep on taking them.

I don’t have a car, or a mobile phone, or an iPad or any of the other things that seem to be “essential” to people these days.  I can’t afford it all.  I understand that not everyone gets all that stuff.  I’m okay with that.  I seem to have got rid of my sense of entitlement.  Entitlement… that’s a big word in this era, and maybe I’ll talk about what I think about that some other time.  But right now, I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and clean, fresh water.  Life is good.

I also have a bed.  Goodnight.


Feeling: old school
Hearing: Carl Sagan

Courage Apr. 9th, 2012 @ 02:04 pm

The majority of us (humans) owe our existence to audacity.  Those of us born to those that came out of Africa in any of the migrations that took place in the distant past are here because our ancestors, through necessity or curiosity, strove out into the unknown to find a new place to call home.  Probably the majority of those whose ancestors never left Africa owe their own lives to a similar courage.  After all, Africa is neither a tame, nor insignificantly sized place.

Maybe it was a one-time deal, this gift of courage, this gift of desire to explore the unknown; and maybe it re-emerges only once in several generations; or maybe it’s an intrinsic part of human nature.  Who’s to know?  Maybe we suppress it through our minds, which constantly war with our instincts and natural desires, to keep us safe from our own baser selves.  But maybe, it’s inside all of us, dormant in most, awaiting a breath to bring the embers back to life.

Change happens not because of those that do the same, safe things that have been proven to work in the past, but by those that innovate and try something new.  Progress comes from those that dangle themselves over the edge of a cliff, to reach out and grab a future thought by most to be eternally out of reach.  To be able to see that possible future is not so rare a gift.  To have the belief and the determination to do what it takes to make that future a reality, is the stuff of greatness.

In the modern age it’s getting harder to see where this greatness lies.  Everything is swamped by the need for specialisation and the cooperation of specialists in many fields to create the new things we crave.  For the most part, and of course there are exceptions, our world is being shaped by groups working together for the sake of incorporeal entities indulging in toe-dipping speculation in the shallowest of pools.  Everything comes down to money, and although the money spent on research is vast, it’s nothing compared to what the companies that are involved in it have at their disposal.  No-one is going all-in.  No-one is betting all their chips on the long shot.  We’re poking the beehive with ever longer sticks and therefore getting further away from the honey.

Will there ever be another time like the 60’s, when a man can stand up in front of the world and say, even though we haven’t yet put a man into space, by the end of this decade we will have sent one to the moon, and brought him safely home?  A man stood on the moon.  That is astounding.

That is exploration.  That is audacity.  That is courage.  I wish I was more like that.

As it stands I can’t seem to get up the courage to take a chance at something every human, nay, every animal bigger than a couple of cells, has had the courage to if they were the ancestor of any in the current generation.  My eternal weakness… haunts me still.

“Fortune favours the bold” as the saying goes.  I believe that, and I think I know why.  (Ask about my ant philosophy of God sometime if you really want to know about it.)  The thing I don’t know the reason for, is why my head knows that, but I can’t seem to act on it.  Maybe I’m the generation that got skipped.  I want to be an explorer though.  I want to charge off, half-cocked into a mysterious world I know nothing about, populated by strange beings who may or may not be friendly.  I want adventure.  I want excitement.  But I want to be safe while I do that.  And that’s why I can’t go.  But there’s nowhere like that left on Earth to go to, as far as I’m aware.  I really wish they would get that whole space travel thing sorted out.

They say they’ve seen planets around distant stars in the perfect zone to support life, like Earth.  Perfect stasis, fire up the rocket and send me there.  That, I could do.  But girls… man, they’re terrifying.

Feeling: Cowardly
Hearing: Final Fantasy XIII - 2's slot machines

Goals Jan. 22nd, 2012 @ 05:56 pm

Well, I made it an entire year without writing in this thing even once.  Well done Me!  Woo Hoo!  Ahhh, okay, so that wasn’t actually one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011.  Sometimes I feel like someone’s tapped me on the left shoulder and while I’ve been looking around they’ve gone around to the right and run away with 18 years of my life.

危ない、そんな話。

These days I come up with things to say and then worry about saying them because that always leads to a feeling of accomplishment followed by a 2 year congratulatory holiday.  I’ve said on this a few times that when I was younger everything came easier to me.  I was a lot smarter then.  I’ve also said on a few occasions that I’ve felt I’ve had that brain back… then nothing has come of it.  I think I’ve found the cause, and hopefully the solution, but let’s not hold our collective breath.

It’s really very simple when I think about it.  When I was young, I ate meat and then when I was around 16 or so I stopped.  I guess my diet shifted mostly to carbohydrates.  When I was young I stayed lean and healthy looking, simply because I had the genetics for it.  Then, as happens with age, it changed.  So I started to put on weight.  As it turns out putting on weight makes you eat more, or makes you more sedentary; not the other way around.  And it’s all caused by carbs.  That’s my current thinking, and I might be wrong, but I have anecdotal evidence so… okay, so anecdotal isn’t the best, but I’ve read a book that comes to the same conclusion with research in it and everything and when have books like that ever been… okay, so there’s nothing really to go on but faith as with most things we’re told, or try to work out for ourselves.

Towards the end of last year my weight was about 214lbs.  On a whim I cut out white bread from my diet, and I started buying whey protein because as a vegetarian I was getting very, very little.  I even started exercising a little based on some of the exercises on the site Bodyrock.tv because who wouldn’t want to look like that.  Today I’m 186lbs, and I haven’t been over 189 for at least a month and that’s even with me not exercising and overindulging over Christmas and New Year.  So something’s working.  I don’t feel as hungry any more.  I sleep better.  I don’t get tired as easily, and dare I say it, I can think.

I’ve been learning Japanese for 2 years now but I haven’t put in much time and effort at really studying at all because I was just too lazy before, and yes, I do think that’s to do with my previous dietary habits.  I just watched TV shows and tried to let everything sink in.  And even then I didn’t watch as many as I could or, in my eyes, should.  I have hundreds of hours, of shows waiting to be watched and dozens of books and manga from Japan waiting on my shelves to be read, and I still can’t get past the first page of any of them without hours of dictionary work.  Well this year I’ve been able to concentrate.  I’ve been able to watch more.  I’ve been able to study, to read, to listen, to notice the stuff that’s happening.  We’re 22 days in and I’ve read entire AKB blog posts (I’d need to dedicate a series of posts to explain the depths of my love for AKB48) without needing to look anything up.  I’ve watched 91 episodes of the anime Bleach, and been hearing the odd sentence come clear out of the clutter.

My aim then, is fluency by the end of the year.  I think that should be possible, especially since I haven’t defined “fluency” in any way.  But in reality my goals for the year are simpler.  Read one book in Japanese and one in French.  Now you might think, start now with a good dictionary and read a page a day and you’ll have that done by the end of the year without any trouble.  True, but all that dictionary work is tiring if you’re actually trying to enjoy a story.  Often when I look something up in the dictionary and move on to the end of the sentence, by the time I get there I’ve forgotten what the word I looked up was.  So my plan is simply to be good enough to read a book and then read it.  I’m not going to waste my time trying to scam myself.

My goal for last year was to read 104 books, which I completed safely on the final day of the year.  The year before it was to read 52, but I got to 67 by the end of the year.  I’m determined not to break the streak this year.  In order to do that I have to be disciplined: and according to my little notepad of quotes it was David Campbell who said “Discipline is remembering what you want.”

I know some of you are probably thinking that none of those are particularly great goals.  There’s no real benefit to any of them.  They won’t make me richer.  They won’t make my life easier.  I don’t care about that.  I care that before my goals didn’t exist, and now they do.  I care that although these goals are not a destination it’s quite easy to see, if you know me, how they will keep me heading in the direction I want to go.

2012, let’s see what you’ve got for me.


Feeling: upbeat
Hearing: AKB48 飛行機雲

eBooks Dec. 20th, 2010 @ 10:48 pm
 

I had a book on my Amazon Wish List for a while called “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely.  It’s something I wanted to read.  After I got my new Kindle I decided to go through the wish list to see which books were available for my new device.  To my surprise “Predictably Irrational” was available for 99p.  I bought it on the spot.  Cut forward to a couple of weeks later and the UK publishers all got together and decided price-fixing was a rather brilliant idea and then made it happen.  They call it the Agency Pricing model, or something like that.  What it means is that in every eBook store in the UK, their books must be sold at the same price, decided by them, or that book shop doesn’t get to sell them.

As far as I know it’s illegal to price fix in the EU, but they don’t seem to care.

When I heard about this I went back to check and see if the prices of anything I’d bought had gone up because of this.  As it turns out, yes, the price of everything I’d bought, that wasn’t free, had gone up.  “Predictably Irrational” had gone up from 99p to £6.99.  It’s quite a significant price hike to my untrained eye.  Are there books that I bought that I might not have at the new prices?  Of course.  I’d have waited until they came down, or just got the paperbacks because unbelievable as it may seem, the paperbacks are now, (at least for those that I care about looking at) less expensive than the non-physical eBook.  In fact I have seen eBooks priced over four times higher than the comparable hardcover.

Three cheers for common sense.  Hip Hip…

When you read some of the forum threads at Amazon about this you see just how irrational (and predictably so) people can be.  Many are boycotting Amazon.  Many are going back to paper books.  Many are boycotting the publishers who fix the prices of their books.  Many are turning to piracy to teach those publishers what-for… e.t.c.  What is the right answer?  In my opinion it’s the same as it always was.  Buy what you want to buy when it is sold at a price you are willing to pay for it.  Thus, market forces will do their trick. It won’t be as fast a process as people would like, but it will happen.

But the fear doesn’t stop there.  The fear says that if everyone stops buying eBooks the publishers won’t look to their pricing for the solution , they’ll just consider eBooks a non-starter and give up on the whole escapade.  That won’t happen.

 

In “Predictably Irrational” there’s an interesting section on the power of “Free,” and another on the power of “relativity.”  Both of these concern our decisions to buy things, such as the eBooks mentioned above.  I’m glad I read the book when I did because soon after, when I was back on the Amazon website I was confronted by just the kind of thing I had read about.  Cybill Shepherd’s autobiography was showing up on the Kindle store for the very reasonable price of FREE!  £0.00 for those that can’t imagine what that looks like on a website.  Ooh, free you say, maybe I’ll just… NO!  Wait a minute, I care not one jot about the life of Cybill Shepherd.  (No offence intended Cybill)  But there I was contemplating picking up a couple of hundred pages of autobiography and donating a few hours of my life to it, and why?  Because it’s free?  Standing out in the snow naked until I get hypothermia is also free, but I’m not on the verge of committing to that.

I’m sorry Cybill, if you Google yourself and find this, but it’s not about you.  I’d feel the same for any celebrity autobiography I hadn’t decided to get before I saw it available free.  I mean, you guest star in Psych, how cool is that?

Now you may think, why not just get the book and then if you don’t like it, don’t keep reading it?  Because that’s how those mad people with stacks of newspaper up to their ceilings that haven’t seen their floor in two decades you see on house cleaning shows get to be that way.  That’s why.

There is a price for free, and it’s easy to forget about it.

Relativity is another thing.  It’s about anchor points and perceived value compared to other things.  Let’s put it this way… If everyone was to go to sleep tonight and forget every price they had ever paid for a book before, and during that time Amazon doubled the price of all the paperbacks and hardbacks they sell, when everyone woke up and had a look at the website (yes, this example does exist in a world with no other bookshops, and yes, in such a world the price doubling could happen) they’d see that most of the eBooks were cheaper than the paperbacks and everything would be okay with the world again.  £6.99 for several months, if not years, of someone’s hard work, the work of publishers and editors and typesetters and lawyers and cover-artists, and more? £6.99 for the experience of reading the knowledge someone has collected through many hours of research or study, or experimentation, or an entire lifetime?  £6.99 for several hours locked away in another world experiencing a deeper connection to a world and characters than you’d get from watching the movie which would last less than half as long, and cost twice as much?  It might, to some people seem like a fair price.

Well not if the paperback was heavily discounted to £6.50, because then “F*** Y**, I’m no fool!”

I probably lost my way there somewhere.  Another part of that point is that people wouldn’t even blink at the prices of paperbacks or hardbacks in that scenario because that would be the only price they’d ever seen for those things, so it would appear the natural price.  People let the price of one product or even the simple mention of a price before they decide the price a product should be dictate the price they think is appropriate for another product.  The question stops being, is £6.99 a fair price for the experience of reading this book and becomes, how much would I pay for this thing when I can get this other thing for £x.xx.  And this effect can take place when the other thing is something they don’t even want.

 

“”Do you want to read this book?”

“Yes.”

“Then it’s £6.99.”

“But the paperback is £6.50.”

“So you want the paperback?”

“No, I want the Kindle version.”

“Then it’s £6.99.”

“I don’t want to pay that.”

“So don’t buy it.”

“But I want to read it!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Then it’s £6.99.”

“But the paperback is £6.50.”

 

I do take things because they’re free.  I do take things because they’re heavily discounted.  Case in point: “In Praise of Savagery” by Warwick Cairns.  I got this not only because it was available for 49p but also because some stranger whose taste I had no reason to trust told another stranger on a message board that it was a jolly good read.  It turns out he was right… sort of.

It’s one of those books that just seems to move along, pulling you through it, without any bad experiences taking place, and without anything truly special happening either.  There’s an interwoven couple of tales running through the book.  One is of the writer going to Africa to walk through a desert and meet up with explorer Wilfred Thesiger.  The other is the tale of Thesiger’s own quest to follow the course of the Awash River years before.

Thesiger’s tale is the far more interesting of the two, and from what I’m led to believe has been told before in his own books.  But nevertheless I like the way it was told here.  I like the style of the writing.  I like the mild attempts at comedy.  I just liked it, and I was through it in about 2 days.  I am a slow reader, so that means something to me.  Perhaps it means it was a really short book, I don’t know, but it was well worth 49p in any case.

 

Reading that book put me in mind of another book about an explorer I had started to read before on my Hanlin V3  (yes, astute reader that is another type of eBook reader.  Why do I have two?  When I bought the Hanlin it was the only one available here that could handle Asian character sets.  The Kindle now can too, and is attached to the store so I can get new books anywhere.)  That book was The Travels of Marco Polo – The Complete Yule-Cordier Edition, from Project Guttenberg.  But actually what it reminded me of was the short biography of the translator Henry Yule at the start of the book.  It was kind of fascinating.  Here was another man who left his home and went abroad with the military to far flung places in a time when not everything was visible on Google maps.  When you wanted to know what was there or how different people lived somewhere, you didn’t just turn on the TV or browse the internet.  You had to go there.  I love those stories of exploration, or finding out, of risking everything just to know… That’s probably why I watched so much Star Trek growing up.  That’s probably why I watch Stargate: Universe with great expectations even though it has been slow moving.  It’s a shame they’ve cancelled that too.  If I had to guess I’d say the reason was that they tried to make it too much like Battlestar Galactica or possibly the love boat, and there just wasn’t enough alien stuff happening.

To draw a parallel with Thesiger, the stuff that happens in Stargate: Universe would be like him going to Abyssinia and getting stung by a botfly which lays an egg in his neck which slowly hatches.  Then, the next week, the water isn’t clean and there might be parasites in it and they have to fix that before everyone dies.  Then the next week they’re running out of food so they have to hunt.  The real thrill of the Thesiger story isn’t in knowing he’s going to inhospitable lands with strange creatures, it’s in the Asaimara tribe who seem to like to kill people on a whim.  What’ll they do when they see him coming?  Is he really amongst friends or in hostile territory.  How will he keep them from turning on him?  Will the Sultan of Aussa permit entrance to his lands or will he end up in the belly of a hyena after he is refused entry, like many of those that have tried before?  It’s not just about the place itself or the hardships of living in that place, it’s about the people in that place, and the tensions between them.  Inter-group tensions, not just intra-group tensions.

Maybe I’m wrong.  There were aliens in Stargate: Universe of course, but they just didn’t show up enough for my liking.

 

I guess that brings me to driving across Canada with Jenn and Rob, and walking from Fort William to Newtonmore with Gordon.  If you saw us at the end of that walk you’d think we were complete fools.  If you saw our plan before we got in the car in Canada you’d say it couldn’t be done.  Both times all we had with us were a few provisions, an optimistic time-scale, time off work, and a destination.  There were no rest-stops marked out, no constrictive, detailed itinerary.  There was freedom.  We’ll go this way, and when we’re thirsty we’ll drink.  When we’re hungry, we’ll eat.  When we get tired we’ll try to stop, but sometimes we won’t be able to stop so we’ll push on.  We’ll see if we can do it… and we’ll see everything we can on the way.

I wish there weren’t so many f***wits in the world blowing stuff up and cutting off heads to make their points, because I want to see all of it, and I’m not nearly as brave as Thesiger and his like were.

There’s just so much beauty out there.  There’s so much to sit in awe of, or to marvel at the simplicity of.  Human works that seem to defy the time and means of their creation.  Towers of shaped stone that stand shrouded in sands or vines.  Natural works that exist only through the irrepressible flow of water over unimaginable geological timescales… ah, too many images not enough typing fingers.  I like beauty.

 

In fact I’m reading two books on the subject right now.  “An Object of Beauty” by Steve Martin, (Yes, that Steve Martin,) and “Kusamakura” by Natsume Souseki.

I’ve always liked Steve Martin’s work.  L.A. Story is one of my favourite movies.  So when I heard he wrote a novel set in the New York art world I had every expectation that I would like it.  So far I do, very much.  But while this is a book about things of beauty and how they affect the people around them, (but actually is the tale of a girl working in the industry), “Kusamakura” was conceived as an attempt to be a thing of beauty itself; like a poem; light on plot, but filled with images and ideas.  While the action is taking place we follow the narrator’s wandering mind into flights of fancy.  He’s an artist and he’s searching for beauty, but a raw natural beauty.  I think it can be explained best with a couple of paragraphs from Chapter 1.

 

“No, I shall aim to observe the people I meet from a lofty and transcendent perspective, and do my best to prevent any spark of human feeling from springing up between us.  Thus, however animatedly they may move hither and yon, they won’t find it easy to make the leap across my heart; I will stand watching as before a picture, as they rush about inside it waving their arms.  I can gaze with a calm and unflinching eye from the safe distance of three feet back.  To express it another way: being free of self-interested motives, I will be able to devote all my energy to observing their actions from the point of view of Art.”  With no other thought in mind, I will be in a fine position to pass lofty judgement on the presence or absence of beauty in all I view….”

 

“If I picture myself, a sodden figure moving in this vast ink-wash world of cloud and rain shot through diagonally with a thousand silver arrows, not as myself but as some other person, there’s poetry in this moment.  When I relinquish all thought of self as is and cultivate the gaze of pure objectivity, then for the first time, as a figure in a painting, I attain a beautiful harmony with the natural phenomena around me.  The instant I revert to thoughts of my distress at the falling rain and the weariness of my legs, I lose my place in the world of the poem or painting.  I am as before, a mere callow townsman.  The swirling brushstrokes of cloud and mist are a closed book to me; no poetic sentiment of falling blossom or calling birds stirs in my breast; I have no way of understanding the beauty of my own self as it moves lonely as a cloud and rain among the spring mountains….”

 

That’s another book I’m thoroughly enjoying.  But I think I’ll go back to the start and read that in one sitting when I get to my Christmas holidays.  It’s a short book.  At the start of the year my New Year’s resolution (no I don’t care what you think of them or their arbitrary start point) was to read 52 books this year.  I defined books quite loosely for myself as what I really wanted was to get through some of the backlog of things I’d bought but never got around to reading.  Right now I’m at 61 read for the year.  I’m happy with that.

On saying that, I think I’ve bought about 30 books for this Kindle since I got it.  Not in keeping with the spirit of the plan is it really?  But I’m having fun, and that’s what counts the most.  I’m amazed at how much reading I’ve got done with the Kindle too.  And what’s also surprised me is just how much of a hassle I find keeping the pages of a normal book open while I read it.

 

Well, I must go now.  Richard Dawkins informs me that I have to meet up with my lungfish concestor at rendezvous 18.

 

Feeling: paperless
Hearing: snow crunch outside
Other entries
» Epic - Part death

There are many causes of procrastination.  One thing that causes it, is the feeling of things being overwhelming; that there’s simply too much to do.  When you look at a large task your brain sees the entire task as one thing and decides that it needs to be doing every part of that task at the same time.  When things are big, they can sometimes feel too large to ever be able to complete even if you do know where to start, because you can’t really picture the end.  One way to accomplish this, is to name something “EPIC,” and then sit down and try to create it.

 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – A book that actually has a point of view, and something to say.  Whether you agree with it or not is up to you.  It’s certainly worth a read if only for the “Money is the root of all evil” conversation.

 

Honey – Jessica Alba stars as a dancer who dances, and saves all the children in the inner cities using the power of being Jessica Alba dancing.  Uplifting.

 

The Darjeeling Limited – If you like Wes Anderson’s films you’ll like this.  Three brothers go on a voyage of self discovery across India.    There’s really not much more to it than that, but it’s enjoyable, and funny.

 

Playstation 3 – This was on my list of things to blog about… it’s been a while then.  Em, so… the Playstation 3 is pretty damn good, thanks.

 

The Orange Box – is better divided into its constituent parts for review.

 

Half-Life 2 + Ep1 + Ep2 – More awesome than you’d know if you’ve only played the first one, or none of them.  The storyline is excellent, and since I can’t imagine a movie coming out any time soon this is your only way to experience it.  The Combine have taken over the earth, so out of the freezer comes our hero, and with some new friends… well, “The Freeman is always having to save the day.”  Throw into the mix Alyx Vance, and Dog, and you have a must play.

 

Portal – This was a triumph.  A puzzle game with comedy and character, and it’s not too difficult, so everyone should play it at least once, and keep your ears open for the voice of the AI.

 

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – It’s hard to say how much of this is game and how much is cut-scene.  At times it seems like the weight is in favour of the latter, but what game there is, is excellent, though if you’ve not played the previous instalments you might get a little bit lost in the story.

 

Left 4 Dead & Left 4 Dead 2 – Yes, the sequel came out before I got to this.  Go me.  Anyway, it’s a fun little shoot ‘em up, when you’re playing with friends.  On your own it’s still fun but is lacking that special element that makes the game so good.  You really need to go with the co-op experience if you can.  It’s shooting zombies, and that’s always fun.

 

Call of Duty: World at War – Speaking of zombies.  In this one you can kill some Nazi Zombies.  The main game is not spectacular.  It’s more of the same Call of Duty stuff, but this time set in the Pacific.

 

Hmmm, this is getting annoying… Well I guess there will be no massive and wonderful third part to Epic.  Why?  Because I feel like maybe making the occasional blog sometime, and having this self imposed crushing weight pushing down on me is not very conducive to that.  So, in the spirit of freedom, It’s gone.  Maybe the pieces of it will show up now and again within new entries, but I wouldn’t count on it.

 

Hurrah, weight lifted, let the next giant weight because I don’t get round to doing the things I want to commence.

 


» Epic - Part 2
It's good to have numerous interests, or so I think I would probably hear people say, if I listened to them more. I'm not sure I'd believe them though. There can be such a thing as too many interests... or maybe it's not so much interests, but my being interested by many things, which I never stick at long enough to develop into full blown interests.

I see something, I think, hey, that looks cool... and then I dive into it for... however long it is it takes me to spot something else. I'm like a magpie with ADHD. "Ooh shiny, ooh shiny, ooh shiny." So I never stick at anything long enough to really get good at it. On the plus side it's hard to be bored when you're interested in everything and have stuff just lying around from whichever last adventure you were on that you can pick right up again when caught at a loose end. On the negative side, I never get far enough into anything to really have the knowledge of it stick before I give it up. So every time I return to it it's like I'm starting again from the beginning.

I went back to the Top Cow forums the other day to have a little look around, and I saw some of the artists in the Artist Showcase that I remembered from about 7 years ago. They're damn good now. A little patience, application and effort, and a few years on, just from that little bit of practice every day, they're pro quality some of them. Hell, for all I know they might even be pros. No, not hookers, professionals, as in professional artists.

I think this language learning thing might just be something I'll stick at though. If for no other reason than I'm lousy at it, but still like it, and keep on going... and every time I hear or read something I understand I still get a little buzz of victory from it.

The biggest trouble I seem to have with that is that I keep on starting new languages before I’ve finished the old ones. Not that you can ever really “finish” a language you understand, but what I mean is I move on to the next before I am fluent enough to handle native materials without dictionaries or other help. That’s the level I need to be at before exposure will take care of all my learning needs. Sure, exposure itself might get me there, but exposure is tough when you only understand maybe 20% of what is going on. It tends to discourage me after a fashion. However, if the material is fresh enough or interesting enough, I can watch it many times without a problem. (“ToraDora” in Japanese for instance.) But I also feel that only exposure to the language on its own is a slower way to go about things. I’m not sure I believe in the brilliance of natural language acquisition when it comes to standard media. I mean, things are laid out differently for kids. Kids don’t just pick up the language by watching TV. They have direct interaction with adults. Feedback. Well, I’m not going to get into all that now. I could write an entire book about that kind of thing, not that anyone would read it because who am I, right? I know this post is called Epic, but it’s not going to be book epic.

Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka – Marvellous. The art is simple, but effective. The story is like a “House” mystery and a roadtrip movie all rolled into one. It really is a classic. Also, it’s a big thick book so it really feels like value for money in your hands. The story is about a doctor who is sent to investigate the mysterious Monmow disease. Is it contagious, or is it caused by factors in the environment of the place it was first discovered? Not the kind of storyline you’d expect from a modern day manga, right?
 
Fell: Feral City by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith – Is about a cop who gets sent to the wrong side of town by his superiors as a kind of punishment. Can one man really do good in a place everyone else has given up on? Typically dark Ellis and I like that, so I liked this.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – Those of you who have only seen the movie will still be wondering why that is the title. In the book it’s very clear. I was surprised with how short this book was, but it’s the perfect size for the story it’s telling, and is so short there’s absolutely no excuse for you not to read it. It’s been made into a movie 3 times for a reason. It’s just a damn good story.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – Is another classic that’s a classic for a reason. It’s also another short book. For those of you who don’t yet know what it’s about, it might suffice for you to know that 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which book paper ignites.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – It’s like the movie but with less music and more plot stuff.

Wikihistory by Desmond Warzel – Viewable here http://www.abyssandapex.com/200710-wikihistory.html is funny and knowing at the same time. Well worth a read. It’s not long.

Hulk – Great cast, and director, and let’s give them some credit, they tried to make it new and exciting and to go their own way with it. On saying that… didn’t really work did it? Oh well.

The Incredible Hulk – Now that’s more like it.

Medal of Honour: Airborne – Tried to play it, but couldn’t really get past the first level because I just wasn’t enjoying it. Shame, because I played the first Medal of Honour again recently and it was great.

Quarantine – The US remake of the Spanish film “Rec” is very good. People say the original is better, but I don’t see it. They’re essentially the same film in a different language. It’s funny in a few places, but that in no way takes away from the horror aspect of the film. If you don’t like shaky, hand-held camera work, don’t watch it. If that doesn’t bother you, give it a shot.

Apocalypto – I remember this film got a lot of flack when it came out for the violence, but it’s really nothing you haven’t seen before … except maybe the sacrifices, but if you’ve heard of that kind of thing you’ve imagined it anyway. I know historically it’s not all that, but try not to think about that and enjoy it for what it is; an action movie set during the time of the Mayan Empire. Taken as that, it’s a good movie. The whole Mayan language thing takes nothing away if you’re used to watching foreign movies, and if you are, it probably adds to the feel of the whole thing.

Hitman – An action movie.

Taken – An action movie. Like “Man on Fire” but with Liam Neeson.

Run, Fatboy, Run – Run of the mill RomCom.

1408 – Horror. Spooky. I liked it.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Not what I was expecting. Interesting enough though.

Shanghai Dreams – Is an interesting little Chinese film. It centres around a family that has moved to the countryside because of a Chinese government initiative, but now they want to move back to Shanghai. That’s not really what the story is about. It’s about life in the little country village. The daughter in the family has a boyfriend that her dad disapproves of… and then very little happens until the very end of the movie, where suddenly everything is turned on its head, and then it ends. It was an unusual movie experience for me, but it was a good one.

28 Weeks Later – I was expecting this to be the rehash type of sequel that would offer little to the experience of the first film, but I actually enjoyed it.

Rush Hour 3 – Rush Hour, 3.

Wrong Turn 2 – Not as memorable as the first, but a decent enough watch if you like the hideously inbred hillbilly genre of horror movies.

Bioshock – Its reviews are off the charts, but I couldn’t get into it. I say that after pushing through to about half way through the game in the hopes of seeing what everyone else was seeing, but it just didn’t do it for me.

Mutant Chronicles – Ha ha ha, Mutant Chronicles. You have to know it’s a B-movie if not lower going in and then try to make up your own fun while watching it. If you don’t, I pity you.

Pan’s Labyrinth – This was a very good movie. It had lots of layers to think about, and that lasts past the ending where people still debate the outcome. The visuals are striking too. The story outside the fantasy is as good as the fantastic parts of the story themselves. It’s well worth a watch by everyone.

Wanted – So some of the skills are crazy, but the film looks nice, and I remember having a good time watching it.

Death Race – Action movie about cars… enter Statham. Not great.

Max Payne (movie) – Is another action movie. It lacks action throughout a lot of it, and it’s obviously not as immersive as the game. I seem to remember the storyline being better in the game too though. It’s kind of average as a movie. A few nice visuals, but that’s about it.

Transporter 3 - This is a better comedy than action movie. Especially when you think of the logic behind the plot… which you will be hard pushed to find any of.

Far Cry (game) – Far Cry as a game starts well with you crawling around an island dodging mercenaries and looking for someone… then the monsters come. The fun remains but it changes into a totally different game. It’s good though, and the transition is good enough when it’s compared to what you get in…

Far Cry (movie) – Uwe Boll; need I say more? Actually this was the first Boll movie I’d seen, and I had an idea what to expect going in to it, but I wanted to see for myself the work of the legend. The movie gets to the weird a lot quicker than the game, which is the wrong choice in my opinion. It also starts earlier than the game, which I suppose makes sense from a bog standard movie point of view. It would be risky starting it where the game starts, but I think risky could have done this film some good. There’s poor dialogue, the actors don’t stand a chance, so it’s tough to rate them. Otherwise… Uwe Boll, the legend is true.

Resident Evil 5 (demo) – I only played the demo of this, not the game… and based on the strength of that demo I realised the control system is way too nippy for me to ever play the full game.

Killzone 2 (demo) – Tried this and thought I’d like to play it. But the controls were a problem so I decided I didn’t want to pay full price for it. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime, because it looked interesting enough.

Watchmen (movie) – A good adaptation of the book. Probably as good as you can get without freaking most people out by sticking to the letter of the original ending.

Superbad – I thought it was very funny.

Quantum of Solace – It’s a shame I couldn’t really see the chase scene for all the shaking. The plot is a little… low on the scale of world threats for a Bond movie, but I guess that’s part of the new more realistic direction they’re taking the franchise. Speaking of realistic, how about that hotel at the end huh? Great designers.

Resident Evil: Extinction – Was good until the crazy mystical powers manifested.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Not awful, not great.

Stranger Than Fiction – I thought this was an excellent movie. Will Ferrell usually goes over the top goofy in his movies, but not in this one. Think of it as his “The Truman Show.”

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – A prequel. If you’ve seen the ones set in modern times, this isn’t one of those ones. It’s set in the past, but it’s in the same vein as the others.

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut – This is a strange story, about World War II, an alien race called Tralfamadorians and time travelling brains. It’s probably better than I’ve made it sound.

Doomsday – So Scotland is plagued by a deadly virus and then the English, taking their cue from the Romans, build a big wall to keep us out. But, the virus eventually makes its way to England, and then they have to break back into Scotland to find a cure, because they know some people are still alive up here. Let the action commence. I liked this more than I thought I would.

Drag Me to Hell – Speaking of movies that were better than I thought they would be. Now this is a Sam Raimi movie, so I thought it would be fun and quite good, but I was expecting the usual paranormal shenanigans without substance, but no, in this one you get the bang from the beginning, and there’s no is it or isn’t it real… it’s real. Good movie.

Wolverine – If you’ve seen the X-Men films you’ll know what to expect here. It’s a good ride though.

The Dark Knight – Yes, I’m one of the people that thought this film was excellent. And that’s because this film is excellent. Yes, you get to the point where you think the movie is over, but it isn’t. Well, I’m one of the people that actually liked that development… because the movie was excellent, and I wanted more.

Wall•E – Speaking of excellent films, how did this not win the Best Picture Oscar? And not the animated one, the real one. It’s just a wonderful, uplifting, beautiful movie… and it’s a cartoon, about robots.

Seventeen Years – A Chinese film about a girl sentenced to seventeen years in jail for killing her step-sister. When she gets out for the holidays she goes home to see her parents, accompanied by one of the prison guards. It’s a surprisingly moving film. It’s very good.

The Prestige – Another great film from Christopher Nolan. Duelling magicians trying to steal each other’s secrets… a simple enough premise, but a wonderfully rich and full film.

Luxury Car – A Chinese film set in Wuhan, where a father travels to try to find his missing son, with the help of his daughter. The main thing I want to say about this film is that this film gave me a taste of my first recognisable Chinese accent. This is definitely not the best film to try to learn Chinese from. As a film it’s okay.

Kung Fu Hustle – Crazy, and brilliant. I loved it.

Oh, look, the middle part is the worst. Who would have guessed? But at least it’s finally here, right? Right?

Don’t expect to wait this long again. I have no life, and a desire to relearn how to type.

 
» Epic - Part 1
Last night I sat with a coffee and a blank page, for what seemed like hours. The world transitioned through time and I found myself with cold coffee and a blank page. Things shifted around again and I sat with steaming hot coffee, two Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches (big enough to eat me) and the life sucking hole that is the blank page.

Today I'm back on top of things. My coffee is 2/3 drunk and this page has at least one paragraph on it. I've been reading some self-improvement blogs for a while because as we all know I waste more of my time than I use, and I just wanted to see if there were any tricks I was missing. Turns out it's all pretty basic, and then the posts become reruns of things said before, with a different accompanying anecdote, because like I say, it's all pretty basic. I think I'll try and sum up some of the key points for you all. They like numbered lists, but I think I'll go with bullet points, to be different.

  • It's okay to say "no."
  • Pick goals.
  • Every day, do something to move towards your goal.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Take notes.
  • Cultivate habits.
  • Exercise.
  • Organise.
  • Simplify.
  • Actionless thoughts can be more harmful than thoughtless actions. (AKA, just do it.)

I'm sure there are more points than that, but these will do.

Hmm, maybe I should explain some of those. People won't hate you if you don't agree to stuff. If you're not in a position to do something, don't. It's like if someone is struggling to climb a cliff you can't pull them up if you're still climbing the cliff yourself... unless you reach a nice ledge where you can take a breather from your own climb. Just know that sometimes when you try to help people when you're not in a safe position to you can end up falling back down the cliff yourself. Put yourself first, it's not socially unacceptable, it makes sense to be in the best position you can put yourself in, and not just for your own sake.

If you don't know what you want or what you're after, you won't know how to get there. Pick goals, things you want to achieve or do, and not just a daily to do list, but long term goals. Every day do something, however small, to move you towards that goal.

Focus on one thing at a time doesn't mean restrict your entire life to one pursuit, one goal, one action. It simply means don't multitask. You might think by trying to do more than one thing at a time you're saving time, which is the most valuable resource you have, but it generally doesn't. When you try to do more than one thing at a time you don't do as well with either of those things. That's not just what I say, it has been proven scientifically, and I would look up the research for you but I can't be bothered. So, nah! I just mean when you're doing something do it, and only it, and you'll get it done faster, and better. Now I'm not saying don't listen to books while you drive or work, things that are mostly automatic, because I do that. What I'm saying is don't be surprised if you have to rewind sometimes, or miss bits. So really what I'm saying is don't multitask when you're doing important things that need to be done right.

Stress is caused by worrying. Some of that worrying is needless. If you have to constantly remind yourself of something so that you don't forget it you're worrying about it. Take notes, so you don't forget. Then the only thing you have to worry about is not losing your notepad. When you're in a position to do something, check your notepad and see what needs to be done.

Habits are things you do every day, like brushing your teeth in the morning. If you make yourself do something the same all the time it becomes a habit, and you do it automatically. So if there's some small thing you always mean to do but don't get around to... like brushing your teeth in the morning... force yourself to do it every day for a month, and eventually you'll realise you're not forcing yourself, but just doing it. It will have become a habit. (Personal interjection. Don't make everything in your life a habit, because that would suck.)

Eating healthily and exercising are not only good for your body, but good for your mind.. which it turns out is a part of your body. It makes you feel better, makes you feel like you have more energy and is just a jolly good thing.

This is another stress reliever. Once things are organised they're all easier to deal with. If you do it right you only have to organise once, then you keep things organised, which is easier than organising. Kind of like how maintenance is easier than fixing something that's broken. Or how it's easier to keep fit than it is to get fit. It also reduces time wasted. If you know where things are you can find them quicker. And clutter is stress inducing, just because it is.

Get rid of stuff you don't need, or want. Let's say you have watched the same TV show for 7 seasons, but it stopped being really good after 5, or it just kills time. Stop watching. You don't owe it anything. Reclaim your time and use it for something more fun. Find a new show maybe. Okay, that wouldn't exactly simplify things. But if you can't find a worthy replacement it would. Look at all the stuff you do and work out what you really enjoy, and what you really need. Get rid of the stuff that isn't necessary or worthwhile that you just keep doing because you've always done it. It might just free up your time to do better stuff.

In the time it takes you to think of things you could have done, you could have done some of them. If you do something wrong the chances are you can fix it. Like, if you're writing... shut up, I know... it's quicker to write a shit page and then edit it into a good one than to sit there for years not writing everything trying to come up with the perfect page before you even begin because you don't want to get it wrong. Give it a go. When you have things to do and you don't know where to start, pick one, start, do it, because by the time you come up with the perfect plan you could have done one thing on your list already. If there was a plan, or a specific order that these things should be done in, it would be obvious where to start and you'd start there, so if there's no obvious place, toss a coin a couple of times, pick one, and start.

So that's what they've been trying to teach me. I'm not sure if I've listened or not. Probably not. I'm quite stubborn at times. I still haven't worked out if I believe most of what they're selling.

I went to see some snooker a couple of weeks ago. Going in we walked past seven time world champion Stephen Hendry, and my friend managed to walk right through the middle of his entourage without noticing him. He was involved in one of the two matches we got to watch... at the same time. He was playing David Gilbert. The other match had Neil Robertson playing six time world champion Steve Davis. That's right, 13 years of combined world champion on show.

The matches were good, though the Hendry match was a lot quicker than the Davis match. The seats were extremely uncomfortable which makes that an important point. Both matches went to the wire and were won in their deciding frames, when it was down to the colours only. Hendry and Davis won. During the journey we saw someone pot two reds at once in the same match... twice. We saw a black ball game. We saw a re-rack. We saw a 147 attempt that was close to coming off. And I'm sure there was something else that I've forgotten. It was good, and interesting. It also gives you a nice glimpse into the nicer side of humanity. You could be pretty sure that no one you saw there had gone out the night before, got out their face on smack or booze and then stabbed someone in the street because they looked at his "burd." Not something you can say when you go see football I feel. Maybe I'm wrong.

Reviews.

Final Fantasy XII : Good.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- By J.K. Rowling : Good.

Assassin's Creed : Fun, Good.

Sword of Xanten : Surprisingly good.

Curse of the Golden Flower : I didn't like it as much as "Hero" of "House of Flying Daggers" but it was still good, and unpredictable.

Call of Duty 4 : Excellent.

Heavenly Sword : Fun and fast paced. You can play through the whole thing in a few hours which is either a good thing because it's like a playable movie, or bad if you're worried about gaming hours equaling money's worth. It's a beautiful looking game though, and the archery levels are tons of fun.

The Bourne Trilogy : Fun enough to read but don't expext them to be anything like the movies because they're not. They're so different from each other, except in the initial concept that they're essentially two different things. They're practically different styles of stories too, except that they're both adventures. If you're looking for adventure stories to read but have ruled these out because you've seen the movies, rule them back in.

Virtua Tennis 3 : Tennis on the computer.

Iron Man : Excellent.

The Eye : The US remake has less Angelica Lee, but more Jessica Alba. From then it's pretty much the same, except the upgrade in effects budget means you see things more... which can be detrimental to the scare factor.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune : Excellent -- like a Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones cross.

Zoom : Fun while you're watching it... though quite unmemorable in the end.

War : Meh.

The Andromeda Strain : The new version is a made for TV thing. It's... a new version of The Andromeda Strain.

Hancock : Funny at times, and actiony at times and worth a look.

Hellboy 2 : Didn't have as much going for it as the first one. Visually appealing.

The Incredibles : Really exciting, and funny, and fun. I'm ashamed it took me so long to watch it.

More later.

Someone could make a fortune if they were able to register .xom domains.

I have a huge file filled with things I was meant to blog about. See how good I am at this? Of course you do. Anyway the first thing on there is "The Death of 'Unspeakable Thing'" which I don't actually think is dead any more.

I've decided to post this now because I can. It might seem to you weird that a post called "Epic" is actually no longer than some other posts I've done, but I've decided Epic things come in trilogies. Take that as you will.


» What I want to say.
It seems I’ve stopped saying what I want to say here. Bad Me! I think everyone who’s tried to have any kind of conversation with me recently has been dragged kicking and screaming into a conversation of my making about girls… not in general, particular ones. I was out drinking last night with Davron and I realised I only really seem to have 3 topics of conversation these days: girls, languages and TV. Luckily for him he has more, so he wasn’t bored out of his mind within the first half an hour.

So we got to talking again about my new favourite subject; the thing that has been on my mind for almost a month now and I eventually got to thinking about this place. I used to write up here about girls I’d meet and the idiot things I’d say, but I didn’t this time. The rational part of me doesn’t believe in jinxes or anything of that sort but I guess there’s a fairly strong irrational side in me too, that exerts its will disguised as apathy. So maybe I didn’t write about such things in case that ruined everything, not that there was really anything to ruin in the first place, but you get the idea.

On saying that though, I’d already told anyone who came within earshot (or typeshot) of me all about it, so how does that make sense? (Answer: It doesn’t.)

That’s all besides the point… but the point is really close to it, so if we just get off at the next intersection and take a left we’ll be there. The thing I got to thinking about, and I know this is all kinds of stupid but like I mentioned that seems to be what this place is for, was what if eventually things go well. I don’t necessarily mean now, but in general. What if I meet a girl and she likes me, and we get together and she decides to read this thing, and she gets to the parts where I rave about girls I’ve just met because I’m too stupid to let reality set in before I type my excitement up here for the world to keep a copy of forever? Then what if she’s not there?

On the other hand what if I type it all up and she sees it and she likes that I was so excited, but then gets to the archives and finds out that oh… he always gets that excited, maybe I’m not so special after all. What if she doesn’t want entire conversations recited to people because I get excited and can’t keep my trap shut? What if I meet someone I like and I write stuff up here and then we become friends and then she sees this and realised I’m hoping for more and that kills it all? What if, what if, what if?

I don’t need guidance on this point. It’s just a thought that I never really considered when making this thing because I pretty much thought I would be the only one interested enough in what I had to say to ever really read it. The answer actually is that I’ll talk about the ones I want to when the urge takes me. If there are reasons I want to keep stuff to myself I will. After all, this is not about what I want people to hear. It’s about what I want to say.

Unrelated – I made a blogger blog so I could comment on blogger blogs. I haven’t done anything with it other than link here, and one night I wrote a post so there was something on it. I read it again this morning, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I don’t know if that says more about what quality of writing I’m capable of (good or bad) or the quality of my judgement of the things I read. But anyway, http://riversofrust.blogspot.com/


» DrHorrible
http://drhorrible.com

If you haven't seen it. Then go now. From what I hear it'll be gone by midnight on Sunday.

There'll be more chances to see it later when you can buy the DVD, but you should also see it now.


» Tonight
It's hard for me to type because I've been drinking... but...

I was out tonight on a a work's night out (Someone is leaving and moving to Cyprus) and I saw things I did not want to see... EVER.

Apart from that I bumped into my friend Paul, and his brother Smash! who I haven't seen in a long time. To cut a long and indulgent story short Smash now has a beautiful girlfriend, and well done him, and she has a little sister, and at one point of the evening I was around Paul's part of the night and there was a boy hanging around Smash's girlfriend's sister and she kept pushing him away like she didn't want him there, so at one point she was waving goodbye to him from inches away to tell him to go away and he wouldn't so I, being chivalrous (or so I thought), stepped forward and pushed him out the way and waved goodbye too, and then she came and backed me off, and so I backed off and then she continued what she was doing. And then everyone I mentioned this weirdo to was all right with it. Eventually, at the end of the night, I was outside and I said to Paul, watch out for that guy there's something wrong with him ... and before I could finish he said "I know." So I went to Smash and started saying that guy has been following her all night and she, even now, is pushing him away but... and he said, "I know" and I thought if everyone knows why isn't anyone.... and before I could finish the thought Smash's girlfriend came over and said, "it's okay, she wants to go out with him but..." and at that instant I shut off from the whole thing and realised I don't understand young people. I said goodbye to Paul and walked home.


» Blog
Today I have decided that I should have blogged a while ago.  Oops.  Now, it's late and I don't feel like saying much, but I feel like I have a duty to myself to say something, so I'll say a lot of very short things.

A very well written article on Multi-tasking, which is very worth the read.

Film reviews,

Ils  (AKA "Them") - Children are our future... nasty, brutish and short.  Based on a true story, and all kinds of frightening.

Warrior King (AKA "Tom Yum Goong", "The Protector", "Honour of the Dragon" ) - Tony Jaa is like a cross between Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and in this movie he does far more Jackie Chan than he did in "Ong Bak".  At the start I thought, who'd want to steal an elephant?  But it was actually satisfactorily explained in the story, much to my surprise.  What was also satisfying was the action.  What wasn't was the last fight scene where they found a new crunch sound effect and decided to use it for every single move, making a parody of itself in the process.  Also, bones are heavier than that.  Also, do wrestlers make the best henchmen?  How could you throw that, it must have weighed a good half a ton?  I think I can still hear that crunching sound effect when I close my eyes.  I saw the film months ago.

Not film review,

Frozen Grand Central, in case you haven't seen it.


» Jumper

A review of Jumper

Jumper stars Rachel Bilson as Millie, a normal girl from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who has always dreamed of travelling the world.  Her ordinary life changes one day when a friend of hers falls through the ice of a frozen river and is swept away.  However, that night she finds a trinket left by the boy on her swing.  Fast forward to a few years into adult life and Millie is working in the local bar when who should re-appear but the boy most of the town thinks drowned several years earlier.  He offers to take Millie to Rome, and having dreamed of travel for so long she agrees to go, but she's a believer in the thought that if something appears too good to be true it probably is.  Before long Millie is thrust into a world of danger, deception and lies that may be impossible to escape.

The action is good.  The effects are brilliant at times.  The most interesting character is once again not the lead however, and that's Jamie Bell who plays a character with a real attitude, a fiery spirit and a special power.  It's a wonderful performance and almost, but not quite, enough to make you want to check out that film he did that time about ballet.  Whereas with most action films you might remember a single image here and there from an enjoyable experience with this film you'll remember a lot of the shots and even some sequences long after the film is over.  Jumper is worth watching for the idea and the effects, and if you like it the ending seems set up for a sequel.  There are also special guest appearances by Darth Vader and Mace Windu.


» I like being right.

About ten years ago I watched a little French film you may have heard of called "Taxi" which was written by Luc Besson. His name attached was a good reason to watch a film at that time since it was not long after "Leon" and right after the release of "The Fifth Element." So I watched Taxi and enjoyed it a lot. It was fast paced, thrilling, and had a ridiculous car... which was nice. But watching that film I saw the girl that played the girlfriend of the hero and she was simply effortless in her portrayal, even for such a small role in such a small budget action movie. I resigned myself to remembering her name because, I thought, one day that girl would be a star. To my amazement, I didn't see her in anything other than the second Taxi movie after that. So I thought that maybe I was wrong... until about a week ago when I heard the nominations for the Best Actress category at this year's Oscars... and then last night, when she won. Well done Marion Cotillard, if for nothing else than making me right.

I'll now add her to my list of before they were really famous Oscar predictions with Adrien Brody who I saw in a little film with E.R.'s Maura Tierney before he got his Oscar for "The Pianist." Yes, I know these were neither of these actor's first films, but they were the first I saw them in, and that's all I had to work with.  You know what else, Ellen Page has been on my list since she was on "Regenesis."  Maybe I missed my chance to be right about her last night.  Don't you hate it when your own brilliance gets in the way of you being right about everything instead of just some things.

I was going to live blog the Oscar's last night from my PSP but then I remembered I was actually lying in front of them trying to fall asleep... so I didn't... do either. I'm surprisingly awake today which is odd because I've been feeling sleepy for the last month during the day even though I've been going to bed and waking up early. Maybe I'm just made for the odd 24 hour day.


» Movies and Stuff
Oops.  I knew I'd been putting this off, but it's been 15 days since my last entry.  That's shocking.

Stuff...

The Rugby world cup was on last year, and it was good.  Rugby is a great sport to watch and really shows the difference between the softness of football players who roll on the ground when the air brushes past their ankle and rugby players who beat the air into submission with their ankles.  But the best part of the cup for me was in a game between .... it was so long ago I can't remember... I think the ref was Australian though, but anyway, listen to this and see how these words would diverge in other sports.  The ref called these two guys over and said, "I got word from my assistant and some punching has been spotted between you two, that's not allowed, so don't let it happen again.  Okay?  Alright, on you go."  Magic.

Atom :- This was a three episode show on BBC4 about the atom.  It very simply explained the process the great humans of the past went through to get to our current level of knowledge about the sub-atomic world.  It was so watchable and understandable I think even my mum kept up with it all.  So if you want to know the broad strokes, and even some of the finer strokes about atoms, then watch this show.

Tribe :- was a show about tribes.  Bruce Parry went to stay with some of the world's tribes, for about a month each, and gave you a glimpse into the lives of people you would otherwise never know about.  We're not talking just African or South American tribes either, he even goes to live with Reindeer herders in Siberia.  Anyway, it's a great show, and there's a book too if you want it.  I'm sad it's finished actually.

Standoff :- was one of the shows from last year I didn't watch right away, but it got good words said about it so I eventually watched it... and it was great.  The characters were lively, the dialogue snappy, and that's the kind of thing that makes a procedural watchable every week.  It also helps that the theme tune was massively catchy, and of course, in the current TV climate, that it actually had a theme tune.  Naturally, because I liked the show and watched it every week on my TV when it actually aired, it has been cancelled already.  Shame.

Movies...

The Bourne Ultimatum :- What a wonderful way to end a wonderful trilogy.  Full of action, full of intrigue, full of scary American government workers shooting at ghosts in the dark.  The film also has one of the best fight scenes and car chases ever put on film.  I don't even know why I'd try to review this, because if you've seen the first two you'll be watching this anyway, and then you'll know for yourself.  Great movie, and it ends the movie making all three one coherent piece, but the way the start is nested in the end of the second marks a separation between the three films, like they should be watched as independent entities and not as one long film filmed in three parts.  I'll tell you about the books later.

Stardust :- is a fantasy film, but that doesn't mean orcs and elves or even pesky hobbitses.  Instead Fantasy in this sense is the kind you get in fairytales where everything is wondrous and just off to one side of the real world.  A boy promises to catch a retrieve a falling star and bring it back to the girl that he has a crush on.  So he runs off to do that, but finds himself in a fantastic world on the other side of an old wall where he encounters princes, and witches, and the star herself.  It's a delightful movie, and if you like fairytales, or other fantasy movies like The Princess Bride, you'll like this... though it might change your perception of Robert DeNiro forever.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 :- The third in this series, just as adventurous and fun as the rest.

Spider-Man 3 :- Some people don't like this film because it's too long.  I didn't notice that.  I didn't really notice anything that took it out of the same mould as the first two.  Are there too many bad guys in this film?  Maybe... but the worst thing in this is the changing of what happened to Uncle Ben.  It's just unnecessary.  It's trying too hard to add emotion to the fight with the Sandman, when there's already enough emotion flying about with the Symbiote's manipulations of Peter's actions towards Mary-Jane, and with the stuff with Harry, and even with Eddie trying to take his job.  Overkill.  It's still an enjoyable movie in the action sense though, and the effects are incredible when it comes to the Sandman.

I Am Legend :- I can't help but compare this to the old Charlton Heston version in my mind, which was spookier, until he started talking with the bad guys.  In this version the bad guys can't speak, which gets rid of some of that problem.  It's strange watching a guy chase deer through the city in a car, with a rifle, when he could easily stop the car, get out and shoot a deer before they got away.  Maybe he just wasn't hungry enough.  Anyway, disease, monsters, devil dogs, good dogs who die because they're saving their owner who won't get up and run in time even though he does so moments later, last minute saves, clever zombie traps... there are lots of things in this movie... including some kind of teleporter which takes the main character from his bathtub, where he falls asleep, to his bed, in the middle of the night.  It's okay.  It's not great, but it's far from bad.  So a pretty run of the mill sci-fi actioner, which looks nice.  I really need to read the book.

AVPR : Aliens vs Predator - Requiem :- I have no idea why the predator decided to take on the infestation alone, but this time a little town in the US is infested with Aliens.  I think you can imagine from then on what this movie is about, but you may not be prepared for how out in the open it all gets.  You kind of expect the predator to stay hidden which he doesn't, and the aliens usually don't just run around everywhere killing everything in their movies, but here they do.  I'd say it's a good solid two and a half out of five movie, but then I was reminded of a scene next to a swimming pool and subsequent cool death, so I think that bumps it up to three stars.  Lots of action, lots of danger, and no idea who, if anyone, gets out alive.  That's all you're looking for in a movie like this... and you get it.

The Covenant :- Why do people think that lifting someone on wires makes it look like they're flying?  It doesn't, it makes it look like they're on wires.  There's a bit of an interesting take on magic here, except for the ridiculous willing people your power concept.  Some great effects are in evidence too, but in the end a story that starts well with a group of friends, a new girl, a relationship on the rocks, and some idiot bullies, turns into a one on one battle for ... a couple of years worth of power... which takes some of the characters away from the main focus of the movie, leaving them out in the cold as people who appeared in the movie at one point but are now in no danger, and it also leaves you having to identify with the leader of their group, or you have nothing invested in the end.  At least if you take the whole gang into the danger area if there's one you identify with more you can experience them being in danger even if you don't feel for the rest.  One good thing about it though is that the bad guy never quite seemed ... right... before he's revealed as the villain.  That's good because mostly you get films with a completely normal and rational looking character who turns into some cackling psycho once the reveal is made... which just doesn't fit in with any reality I've ever known.  So good points and bad points, but no better than average, and full of things they could and should have done.

Next time: whatever I write next time.


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